A Genealogy of Terror in Eighteenth-Century France

Ronald Schechter

A Genealogy of Terror in Eighteenth-Century France

Ronald Schechter

304 pages | 7 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226499574 Will Publish April 2018
E-book $45.00 ISBN: 9780226499604 Will Publish April 2018
In contemporary political discourse, condemning acts of terror is all but automatic. But this reflexive disavowal is a surprisingly recent development. In A Genealogy of Terror in Eighteenth-Century France, Ronald Schechter tells the story of the term’s evolution in Western thought, examining a neglected yet crucial chapter of our complicated romance with terror.
 
For centuries prior to the French Revolution, the word “terror” had largely positive connotations. Subjects flattered monarchs with the label “terror of his enemies.” Lawyers invoked the “terror of the laws.” Theater critics praised tragedies that imparted terror and pity. By August 1794, however, terror had lost its positive feel. As revolutionaries sought to rid France of its enemies, terror became associated with surveillance committees, tribunals, and the guillotine. But, by unearthing the tradition that associated terror with justice, magnificence, and health, Schechter helps us understand how the revolutionary call to make terror the order of the day could inspire such fervent loyalty in the first place—even as the gratuitous violence of the revolution eventually transformed it into the  dreadful term we would recognize today. Most important, perhaps, Schechter proposes that terror is not an import to Western civilization—as contemporary discourse often suggests—but rather a domestic product with a long and consequential tradition. 
 
Contents
Preface
Introduction
1. Holy Terror and Divine Majesty
2. The Terror of Their Enemies: Kings and Nations
3. The Terror of the Laws: Crime and Punishment
4. Terror and Pity: The Springs of Tragedy
5. Terror and the Sublime
6. Terror and Medicine
7. Terror before “the Terror”: June 1789–August 1793
8. Terror Speech in the Year II
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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